Taking The Reins
● Published by Robert Frey
Carey Laviolette Poised For Iberia Parish SuperintendentBy Hailey Hensgens Fleming | Photos by Lee Ball
There are few things more captivating than a good success story. Starting small, working tirelessly and chasing a goal is a theme that resonates with so many. Perhaps because it’s a struggle embedded in each of our own stories as well. What an encouragement it is to see one person’s hard work and persistence rewarded with success. Such is the story of Carey Laviolette, the Delcambre native who has spent her entire career in the Iberia Parish School system, risen through the ranks and will soon assume the role of Superintendent.
Immediately after earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now UL) Laviolette landed a job at Delcambre High School where she taught physical science and physics for six years. Although certain she was in the right place, Laviolette had not always been determined to work in education. Instead, her initial goal was to pursue a career in the medical field and she didn’t change her mind until after college classes began. No one pushed her to be an instructor, but she notes the life-long influence of her grandmother, whom she describes as a phenomenal teacher, as a possible factor. Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Laviolette decided to change her major and pursue a degree in education. As a lifelong learner, being an instructor was a natural decision and she’s never looked back.
No success story is possible without hard work and this one is no exception. A strong work ethic and dedication in every endeavor has been the underlying key to Laviolette’s outstanding career. While still a high school teacher and mom to two young children, she returned to school to earn her Master’s in Education - an accomplishment that came only with great effort. Laviolette tells the story, “At the end of the night, when I would put my children to bed, I had to study. So, to stay awake, I would pace up and down the hallways with my book so I could do well on whatever tests I had coming up.” This tightrope routine, balancing her home life and a flourishing career, persisted for six straight years as Laviolette earned her master’s degree followed by a specialist degree in administration.
As a true “people person,” Laviolette enjoyed working with her students and building relationships with them. Just as she enjoys gardening and cultivating plants and flowers in her spare time, she loved planting seeds and cultivating new growth amongst her students. However, she found herself wanting to progress into a more administrative role. “I had a strong connection with my students and after I taught for a while I realized there was a way I could stay connected while still experiencing more administrative tasks,” she explains. The logical next step was to become a guidance counselor, a position that allowed Laviolette to learn more about in the inner workings of the school while uncovering newfound passions for directive work. This position proved to be a catalyst that set Laviolette on a new path where she filled multiple administrative roles within the district and finally arrived to where she is today.
When asked if becoming the Superintendent of the Iberia Parish School System was her greatest ambition, Laviolette explains it was not. Instead, she set her sights on whatever task was set immediately before her. “I always believed I had to do the very best job I could in the position that I had. One promotion led to another, but I never set out to become the superintendent,” she says.
However, Laviolette knows her progression from role to role was not accomplished alone, but with the guidance of those who came before her. “When I became the Drug Free School and Communities Facilitator it was my first experience at a central office, so I looked up to the people who were the leaders at the time,” she explains. Among those were Mary Jo Manning, the Federal Program Supervisor, as well as Judy Guidry, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. “I learned everything I possibly could from those two women and I admire them so much for what they taught me,” she continues. “Those two ladies were the mentors that gave me the desire to advance in the school system and that’s what made me continue working on my leadership skills and learning from them as well.”
Thirty-nine years of learning and maturing within the Iberia Parish school district, alone, have given Laviolette a unique perspective of the education system - one she believes will give her a significant edge as she approaches her new designation. “I have had many roles within the school system and they have brought knowledge and insight as to all the different facets of the Iberia Parish school system,” Laviolette explains. From teacher to Assistant Principal to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and everything in between, she has seen the innermost workings of the district and knows what’s required for them to thrive. It is with that knowledge that she plans to maintain the fine-tuned machine she’ll soon inherit from current Superintendent Dale Henderson.
Laviolette has set forth three primary objectives for herself and her team, the foremost of which is student achievement. “If students are learning then they’re going to be successful and ready for the real world. Student achievement is what makes the school system strong,” she explains. Second, she is determined to ensure the school system remains to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. “In our inner capital outlay, in the way we hire personnel, we want to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” she says. Last, but not least, Laviolette adds, “It has been a decade since our employees have had a significant salary increase and our third goal is to seek ways we can provide that increase for them.”
With the support of Kirk, her husband of 41 years, her two children and five precious grandchildren, Laviolette will assume her new role in the coming school year, the influence of which she does not take lightly. “The Iberia Parish School Board is greatly respected and I feel it is my job and my burden to make sure that legacy persists,” she states. However, Laviolette is no stranger to a good challenge and remains confident in her abilities and those of her team to accomplish the task at hand.
“As I move forward to become the Superintendent, the overarching goal is to ensure a strong public school system that supports a thriving community. My role within that,” she concludes, “is to ensure the school system stays strong and remains one the community can be proud of.”